Things That Interest Me #2

It was perfect timing to go to the Neil Gaiman reading/Q&A/Signing last night as today the thing that interests me is authors and creators using the internet to build communities.

(Incidentally, last night was superb. I had wonderful company and Mr. Gaimans reading of one of his short stores was superb. I was impressed by his improvisational skills when answering the audience questions. Then he worked for hours signing books. While signing a copy of his new book he said something so incredibly nice to me that I kind of went 'eeek!' in pure fannish joy).

But on to online communities.

I understand the whole Cluetrain/Hughtrain manifesto that 'marketplaces are conversations' although the whole marketing speak of it makes my skin itch. Instead, what I have found is that authors are building connections with their readers using online means.

Neil Gaiman is one such person. Go to his website and look around. You get the feeling that he is a really nice person partly from his blog and partly from the way he is happy to answer his reader's emails. He uses the internet to keep his fans updated on all the things that he is doing. This builds interest in his work and so a sense of community.

Another writer, Warren Ellis, embraces the technology of the internet. From Mailing lists, to his website and into The Engine forum, he not only keeps fans updated, but allows his personality to shine through. He is passionate about showcasing new talent (and pictures of penii carved into topiary) and has managed to carve out a cult of which I am a proud and happy member.

By building these communities it goes beyond the idea of 'selling stuff'. They provide a focus for people to meet around, they let you get to know the person behind the words and they allow you to ignore the boundaries of geography in meeting other people who share your interests. You can feel that the writer is your friend, that they are speaking on a level with you – and ultimately that converts into a loyal following who will buy the books and evangelise the work not just because it is good (because you need to be good to start that seed), but because you are their friend.

To look at it from another way, I *told* you that my book was old posts from this site, that you could just dig into the archives and you would find pretty much the entire text. So why did so many of you buy it? Was it for the physical artefact of the book, or was it because you think I'm a nice bloke who writes in an acceptable manner and you wanted to repay that a little? Would it have been bought in such mind boggling numbers if it wasn't released on the back of what has become, in it's own small way, a community?

It's not a one way process, I get a huge amount of pleasure every time someone comments on a post, immediate feedback is a huge motivator for blog writing. I love it that people are interested in what I am writing. I love meeting people who read this blog and I love taking part in the various communities that have sprung up around the blog format websites.

So writers, build that community – it creates loyalty, it builds friendships and it allows you to talk with people who should mean a lot to you.

Also it's a huge amount of fun.

If you know of any others, let me know of other similar sites, as I'm hugely interested in them.

(Written under a deadline, so it may wander a little as I scribble madly in bed before heading off to work)

20 thoughts on “TTIM#2”

  1. Scott Sigler and his horror-genre podcast novels… Wonderful stuff! Thanks for the head's up about #4! I haven't been keeping up the past couple of months, and I'm still getting through Hutchins' “7th Son” which is mighty fine, too.Geordon

  2. You might want to check out J C Hutchins ( and Scott Sigler ( – both are podcast authors, which fits in nicely with TTIM1. J C Hutchins has just finished podcasting the first book of his '7th Son' trilogy, and Scott Sigler has just started distributing his 4th podcast novel – 'The Rookie'. Both have very active reader/listener communities.

  3. Why I Bought Your Book:Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes there is nothing better than the feel of paper in your hand whilst absorbing the written word.Also;It makes a tiny contribution to your pocket – god knows you need it after years of doing a job which is vastly under-appreciated by the bean-counters!It adds credibility which the blog-snobbers won't grant you for writing “on-line” – so nyer to them!It's a huge range of your posts in one easy-to-access format which doesn't require the use of a computer, expensive broadband connection (although I get 100MB stream over here at home – for free – MUWAHAHA!), doesn't consume electricity (therefore more environmentally-friendly than being stuck infront of a screen) and enables me to switch of from other distractions like LFC homepage, BBC Sport/News/Prime, email, WORK!, eBay, etc…..I'd like to think they are good and wholesome reasons ;)Plus the blog continues – so now I can focus on the more current, uptodate entries! *grin*Oh sorry – what was that? The question was rhetorical? Oops…..;)

  4. *hugs* It's because of you that I started blogging. Yours was the first blog I ever read and led to something for me which has become a huge part of my education.I bought the book because you told me I had to! Although, I can't actually read PDFs on my computer because it gives me a headache.

    Books look prettier on a shelf and make me feel cultured.

  5. I bought the book because it's great for having a laugh commuting to work and back and I don't fancy being in an ambulance in a foreign country because someone mug me for my flashy PDA whilst I'm reading the online blog and beat me senseless over it. So, portability and security for me!Also, I'm guilty for printing off anything longer than a page because it's just seem nicer to read than from the screen – this is despite me being brought up around computers since the early 80s.

  6. Hey Tom – I was also at the Neil Gaiman reading and couldn't believe what a genuinely nice person he seems to be. Well I spose I could because I agree with everything you said about his blog. He was the first author's blog that I ever came across and I was also fairly gobsmacked when he not only replied to an email that I sent him, but mentioned it on his blog as well and he was extremely helpful in agreeing to a mini interview too. Glad you both stayed to get a book signedAnd yep – agree with the first comment – there's still nothing like curling up with a good book which you really can't do with a computer screen or lap top

  7. Authors with blogs …. try I've read several of his books and now you've reminded me about him (in a way) I think I'm off to Amazon next to get some more!On a very slightly related note, what do other people do with their read books. There are very few I'm sentimental enough to want to keep, but I read so much and have piles/boxes of paperbacks all over the place. ANyone know of any charities that would like them … guess I could just take them to the local charity shop for them to sell on (probably answered my own question there!)?

  8. So you're a member of a cult who's leader immortalizes members in his topiary? Hmmm. One day I hope to have a little following myself, of course my premature publication could prove to be merely a pathetic fallacy.

  9. One of my favourite online amusements is Mil Millington's page from “Things my girlfriend and I have argued about”, it's been going forever, the book was hilarious and Mil is a genuinely nice guy. We met him at a reading/signing a while back just after his second book had been published. He also does a regular mailing list thingie that I get sent to my work email, never fails to cheer me up. You can find the page at:

  10. Re the benefits of books. When I worked in a library, I remember reading one of those sign thingys in the coffee lounge, which said that books were the ultimate storage device, even better than, gasp! the computer. Stuff about them being much longer lasting etc, not becoming obsolete over time as the software to read the data was no longer available etc. I expect some computer knowledgeable bod will be able to track down the original quote… Cathy

  11. You could try this.But I know what you mean… my book collection gets ruthlessly pruned every time I move and even so I have about four shelves worth that I simply can't bear the thought of parting with. It's just so nice to be able to see a familiar favourite book, pick it up, and read it, anywhere.

    And I know someone (naming no names) with an entire spare room full of sturdy plastic boxes which are mostly full of books that he never reads any more, but carts from house to house up and down the country every time he changes jobs. Apparently he's waiting for the day he can afford a house with its own library.

  12. You're a proper bestseller, Tom. Last time I looked, you were number 9 in the sales ranking! Congrats and thanks for all your efforts on the blog and on the road. Building a community and serving a community: that's real public spirit for you.

  13. “Kind of”? ;)It was a great evening, and a well deserved lovely moment that I'm glad I got to witness. It's always lovely when nice things happen to good people. Gives one the warm and fuzzies, so it does.

    Reading Neil's blog today, I'm even more impressed with how much of a genuinely nice guy (and professional) he is. How he managed to do what he did last night after getting that news I'll never know, but I'm very glad he is who he is and he does what he does.

  14. We purchased your Book to read on the Train, give to friends and family who are strangers to the Internet, and boost your Pension Fund – because you deserve it!Ta11ulah


  15. Just read this today, so I had to read through all the comments before I asked (and I can't believe someone hadn't already!), but what was the “so incredibly nice to me that I kind of went 'eeek!' in pure fannish joy” thing he said to you?

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